The Korea Herald


U.S. lawmakers step up to oppose Japan's UNESCO bid

By 배지숙

Published : July 4, 2015 - 13:52

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A group of lawmakers in the United States has expressed opposition to Japan's bid to get world heritage status for its industrial facilities linked to wartime Korean slave labor, calling on Tokyo to include their history if it wants the inscription, documents showed Friday.

A set of early mining and steelmaking sites in Japan has been shortlisted for the UNESCO World Heritage list, with the final call to be made later in the day. But it has sparked international controversy as Tokyo left out the years of its colonial rule during World War II and is trying to only register the records of the sites on its industrialization period between 1850 and 1910. 

In a bipartisan move, six members of the U.S. House, including Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY) and Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), sent a joint letter to the World Heritage Committee on Thursday (U.S. time) and asked the committee demand the Abe government amend the application.

The committee is a UNESCO body responsible for deciding the World Heritage List. 

Japan has not included the history of allied prisoners of war during the second world war and the omission is unacceptable, the six lawmakers said in the letter, adding Tokyo must openly acknowledge its military forced the POWs into slave labor.

The group noted that thousands of Korean men and women were conscripted into the army and forced into hard labor. Korea was under Japanese colonial rule from 1910-45. 

South Korea has urged Japan to recognize its use of forced Korean labor at the sites, with the foreign ministry seeking to negotiate the issue with its Japanese counterpart. 

There were 26 prison camps in five of the eight regions shortlisted for the Heritage list, where over 13,000 POWs from the Netherlands, Britain, the U.S., Australia and others were exploited to provide labor to Japanese industrial giants, such as Mitsui, Mitsubishi, Sumitomo and the Aso Group, the letter said. (Yonhap)